VBEA president asks for school board to consider calendar option

The following are remarks made by Virginia Beach Education Association president Trenace Riggs concerning the 2016-17 school system calendar at the Dec. 15 School Board meeting in which she asked for them to consider voting on a calendar with two full day embedded professional development days without taking any winter holidays away in December or summer vacation days in August.

Good evening Chairman Edwards, Vice Chairwoman Anderson, members of the school board, and Superintendent Spence. My name is Trenace Riggs, President of the Virginia Beach Education Association.

I am here this evening to discuss the upcoming adoption of the 2016-2017 School Calendar.  I had the distinct privilege of sitting on the calendar committee this fall and would like to share with you some of the important discussions generated from this committee.

The administration presented three calendar options to the committee.  Option 1 was similar to that of the present calendar, Option 2 was quickly dropped because no one liked it and the Option 3 incorporated embedded professional development days for staff.  The committee was tasked with creating a calendar that would keep 183 instructional days, not extend the school year past graduation, not begin the school year before labor day, and find time to embed professional development days for staff.

It was soon evident that there were not enough days in the 2016-2017 school year to accommodate embedded professional development without compromising the summer and/or holiday break in August or December.  Many of the comments from the Alert Now feedback indicated a lack of support for compromising any holiday breaks, stating a desire not to lose valuable time with their families.

Therefore, I propose that the school board consider adjusting the 2016-2017 calendar to allow administration the flexibility to embed professional development into the school calendar without compromising holiday time. The calendar should also allow for full professional development days, rather than half-days, in order to promote continuity and flow during the delivery of instruction. Also, half-days of professional development make it difficult and dangerous for bus drivers in getting students to and from school in a timely manner. Embedding full professional development days into the school calendar will enhance student performance as administration and staff will have time to develop, implement and analyze best practices in the classroom.  Providing staff with time to infuse new programs with lesson plans will enhance student engagement, provide timely feedback on student performance and ultimately raise scores on high stakes tests.

Furthermore, allowing flexibility in the school calendar to create meaningful and engaging professional development will allow for innovative solutions for inclement weather make-up days and boost morale among staff because family time is protected.  Prioritizing meaningful professional development becomes the corner stone of Great Dreams need Great Teachers.

In conclusion, I would offer that 2 instructional days be substituted for professional development days; one day embedded at the beginning of the year and one day embedded after the SOL tests in May.  This way, administration has the flexibility of rolling out new programs at the beginning of the school year, teachers and staff would have time to implement these programs into valuable lesson plans, and then be able to analyze best practices at the end of the year.

I believe that working collaboratively, we can find a working solution to maintaining quality instruction in the classroom while protecting holiday time for all of our stakeholders – the families, the administration and staff of Virginia Beach City Public Schools.  Thank you for your consideration of my proposal and I look forward to a workable solution.